Vancouver Canucks: What Do They Need at the Trade Deadline?

Joel Prosser@@JoelProsserCorrespondent IFebruary 12, 2012

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 11:  David Booth #7 of the Vancouver Canucks takes a shot prior to the start of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on November 11, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Stanley Cup is rightfully called the hardest trophy to win in professional sports.

Before you can hoist the Stanley Cup, you have to endure the two-month war of attrition otherwise known as the NHL playoffs.

Looking at teams who went to the conference finals (or better) last spring, the Vancouver Canucks used 16 forwards and nine defencemen. The San Jose Sharks used 15 forwards and eight defencemen. 

In the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning used 14 forwards and eight defencemen.

The Boston Bruins, who also had the least amount of travel out of the conference finalists, only used 13 forwards and seven defencemen in their campaign to the Stanley Cup.

The trading deadline is coming up in two weeks, and some teams might be looking to add an impact player, but the Canucks already have those at all positions.

What they should be looking to do is add depth for the inevitable injuries.

The Canucks are pretty well set at forward. This is a much more offensively skilled group than the Canucks went into the playoffs with last year, and should be able to weather injuries much more effectively.

Barring injuries, the top nine forwards will consist of the Sedins, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Chris Higgins, David Booth, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond and Cody Hodgson. 

The fourth line will be built around defensive specialists Maxim Lapierre and Manny Malhotra plus another winger.

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 04:  Cody McLeod #55 of the Colaorado Avalanche and Byron Bitz #34 of the Vancouver Canucks engage in a fight in the first period at the Pepsi Center on February 4, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Right now, Dale Weiss is holding down that fourth-line winger role, but the Canucks have other options if they want to tinker with the lineup.

Byron Bitz has been making headlines for his return to the NHL last week after four surgeries and almost a season and a half on the shelf. He provides some major size and surprisingly good hands.

Andrew Ebbett is currently recovering from a broken collarbone and should easily be ready in time for the end of the season. 

Aaron Volpatti made the team out of training camp, but was then sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He might be back in time for the playoffs, but his lack of playing time would push him down the depth chart.

Mike Duco was an offseason pickup and has spent most of the season with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL, but hasn't looked out of place on the fourth line when called up.

Steven Reinprecht is a player most Canucks fans are familiar with, as he spent several seasons with divisional rivals Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames

A veteran with 663 regular season and 50 playoff games worth of experience, including a Stanley Cup with the Avalanche, Reinprecht was basically the forgotten piece in the David Booth trade earlier this season, but he could be very valuable in the playoffs.

Assigned to the AHL largely due to salary cap reasons, Reinprecht is a safe bet to arrive in Vancouver as soon as the playoffs start. 

Reinprecht in his Florida days
Reinprecht in his Florida daysKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

GM Mike Gillis recently stated on local radio that if it wasn't for the risk of losing him on reentry waivers, Reinprecht would already be with the Canucks right now.

That gives the Canucks a pool of 17 forwards to call upon during the playoffs, much deeper than last year's roster.

In goal, the Canucks have what is probably the second-best tandem in the NHL with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. (Give credit where it is due, they might be Bruins, but Thomas and Raask are the best tandem in the NHL today.)

On defence, the situation isn't quite as rosy. 

The top four defenders for the Canucks, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler and Sami Salo, are as good as any top-four group in the NHL. And behind them, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome round out the defence corps.

Chris Tanev, the surprisingly effective rookie from last year's playoffs, is currently playing top minutes in the AHL for the Chicago Wolves, and surely will be called up for the Canucks playoff run. 

That gives the Canucks eight defenders who played in the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, but is that deep enough?

The recent injury suffered by Salo due to a low blow by the most hated man in Vancouver, Brad Marchand of the Bruins, exposed a weakness in the Canucks roster.

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 07:  Sami Salo #6 of the Vancouver Canucks is helped off the ice after he was hit by Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins on January 7, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Namely, they could really use another defender who can play top four minutes on the right side.

If a left side defender goes down, Ballard can fairly easily move up on the lineup. But the opposite isn't true for right side defenders.

When Salo went down, that threw the entire defence out of sync, as players were adapting to playing out of position and with different partners.

This was a key factor in the malaise that plagued the Canucks in January after the emotional game against the Bruins.

Now Chris Tanev could possibly fill that role, and in fact he looked very good doing just that in a game against the Sharks in mid-January during a brief one game call-up when Salo was injured. 

But do the Canucks really want to pin their hopes on a rookie? Especially given that Salo is perhaps the most injury-prone player in the NHL?

If the Canucks make any move, expect them to just add another defender, preferably one who can play the right side and provide a bit of injury insurance.

Sure, it'd be nice if they picked up the nasty power forward that everyone is clamoring for, or pulled off a blockbuster and stole Shea Weber out of Nashville.

But realistically, that isn't going to happen. Mike Gillis already made his big move back in October when he traded for Booth and Reinprecht. 

It might not make for great TV on all the trade deadline shows, but expect Gillis to make another smart depth pickup as he did in years past for players like Alberts, Lapierre and Higgins.


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